COLE CUSTER – 2018 Charlotte I Race Report

Cole Custer Finishes Second at Charlotte

Haas Automation Driver Earns Best Finish of Season

 

Date:                 May 26, 2018
Event:               Alsco 300 (Round 11 of 33)
Series:               NASCAR Xfinity Series
Location:          Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval)
Format:             200 laps, broken into three stages (45 laps/45 laps/110 laps)
Start/Finish:      2nd/2nd (Running, completed 204 of 204 laps)
Point Standing: 5th with 371 points

Race Winner:    Brad Keselowski of Team Penske (Ford) in overtime
Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-45):

  • Cole Custer started second, finished seventh to earn four bonus points.
  • Custer held the Haas Automation Ford inside the top-10 during Stage 1.
  • He pitted for four tires, fuel and chassis adjustments at the conclusion of the stage to correct tight-handling conditions.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 46-90):

  • Custer started seventh, finished second to earn nine bonus points.
  • Custer powered the Haas Automation Ford into the top-five during the restart.
  • After a lap-79 caution, he climbed to second place and held the runner-up position before Stage 2 ended.
  • Pitted for four tires, fuel and adjustments after Stage 2 concluded. He was first to leave pit road.

Final Stage Recap (Laps 91-200):

  • Custer started fourth, finished second.
  • Custer took the lead on lap 102 until a caution five laps later.
  • On the restart, he maintained the lead until another caution on lap 126.
  • Rain forced an hour-long delay with 28 laps remaining.
  • After the final caution, Custer restarted in third place and battled for the lead before securing a runner-up finish.

Notes:              

  • Custer’s second-place finish is his best Xfinity Series finish of the season.
  • Custer was the highest finishing Xfinity Series regular.
  • This marks Custer’s eighth top-10 of the season and fourth top-10 at Charlotte.
  • It was Custer’s second top-five of the season and second at Charlotte.
  • Custer earned 13 bonus points in the Alsco 300.
  • Custer led two times for a total of 29 laps.
  • Custer gained one spot in the playoff point standings.
  • Thirteen cautions slowed the race for 59 laps with only 22 of the 40 drivers finishing on the lead lap.
  • Brad Keselowski led 77 laps to win the Alsco 300 earning his 38th career Xfinity Series victory. It is his second victory of the season and fourth at Charlotte. His margin of victory over second-place Cole Custer .421 seconds.

 

Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing With Biagi-DenBeste:      

“What an incredible day. We’ve always been good here, but we just keep getting better. Our Haas Automation Ford Mustang handled great today and I improved my restarts from last year. It’s great to run up here with the Cup guys and compete for a win. This just shows how hard our guys are working back at the shop. Everyone from Roush-Yates and Stewart-Haas Racing are doing a fantastic job putting us in position to win. We just needed a tick more today. ”

 

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2018 Charlotte I Race Advance

Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will head just a few miles down the road from the race shop for the second consecutive weekend for Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Last weekend’s Monster Energy All-Star Race was a non-points event that paid $1 million to the winner, but it’s back to racing for points with this weekend’s 600-mile marathon.

Once again joining the Memorial Day weekend tradition of honoring America’s fallen service members as part of the NASCAR Salutes initiative, the windshield header of each Cup Series car that usually display the drivers name will instead feature the name of a fallen service member. Almirola’s name on the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion will be replaced with United States Army SSG Aaron Butler. Butler, a native of Monticello, Utah, born on Aug. 24, 1989, was part of the First Battalion 19th Special Forces unit. He graduated from the Army Green Berets Special Forces Qualification course in January 2016 and perished on Aug. 16, 2017. In addition to defending his country, Butler served as a missionary for the Church of Latter Day Saints, earned his Eagle Scout rank and was a four-time Utah high school state wrestling champion. Butler’s brother, fiancé and other close family members will be attendance this weekend at Charlotte.

Butler was selected to be on Almirola’s car because of his connection to the No. 10 team car chief, Chad Haney. “My connection to Aaron Butler was through a good friend of mine, Charlie Tilton,” Haney said. “Charlie was an instructor at an Army Green Beret training course in North Carolina called Robin Sage. I went on a training exercise one night and they dressed me up as a bad guy, and Aaron and a bunch of other guys found me. I was told last summer that Aaron was the one who got me in the exercise. It was an experience that I will never forget. When I heard about his death I went to work trying to figure out a way to honor him. I’ve since spoken with Aaron’s mother and brother on the phone and they are very appreciative of his name being on our car.”

This weekend also marks the first time Smithfield has adorned Almirola’s Ford Fusion for the May race at Charlotte even though the Tampa native has participated in the 600-mile race five times in his career. In his first Cup Series start at the Memorial Day weekend event in 2012, Almirola earned his only Cup Series pole award with a speed of 192.94 mph. In the same event, Almirola also led four laps. The 34-year-old has a best result of 10th at the 1.5-mile oval located just a few minutes from SHR’s Kannapolis, North Carolina headquarters.

At 1.5-mile venues this season, Almirola hasn’t finished outside the top-13 with the exception of the April race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, where the No. 10 Ford Fusion was involved in an accident. Almirola finished inside the top-10 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.

Last weekend at Charlotte, Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion had a different look for the Saturday night exhibition event. Waffle House appeared on the car to help kick off its first-ever “Who’s Your All-Star?” sweepstakes in conjunction with Smithfield Foods. Fans can enter the sweepstakes by snapping a photo with their favorite Waffle House associate and sharing via Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #WhosYourAllStar. The top-10 associates and the customers who nominated them will receive special recognition and a Waffle House gift card. One grand prize customer and associate winner will each receive a VIP experience to the NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

In addition to the Waffle House sweepstakes, fans can enter for their chance to win Smithfield’s Smoke Machine Mustang designed by team co-owner Tony Stewart with the help of drifting champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. They helped create a one-of-a-kind Ford Mustang RTR Spec 3 that will be given away to one lucky fan. Fans can register for their chance to win the suped-up Mustang and a trip to November’s Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead by visiting SmithfieldRacing.com, or by texting SMOKE to 82257.

Fans also continue to have the opportunity to celebrate the summer grilling season by entering Smithfield’s “Hero of the Grill” contest that Almirola and five-time world-champion barbecue pitmaster Tuffy Stone helped launch earlier this month. Fans are encouraged to nominate their favorite grill hero by visiting SmithfieldGetGrilling.com. One “Hero of the Grill” nominee will win $5,000. Plus, the first 10,000 nominees will have the chance to see their name featured on Almirola’s No. 10 Smithfield Ford at Richmond (Va.) Raceway in September.

The Coca-Cola 600 marks the 12th points-paying event during which the Smithfield livery has adorned Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion. Smithfield, a brand of Smithfield Foods, which is based approximately five hours northeast of SHR headquarters in Smithfield, Virginia, is in its seventh season with Almirola and its first with SHR. Founded in 1936, Smithfield is a leading provider of high-quality pork products, with a vast product portfolio including smoked meats, hams, bacon, sausage, ribs, and a wide variety of fresh pork cuts.

Ford’s seven wins this season is the best start the manufacturer has had to a season in 20 years. Almirola’s SHR teammates have earned a majority of the victories for the blue oval – Kevin Harvick with five and Clint Bowyer with one. If a Ford Fusion visits victory lane this weekend, it will mark the manufacturer’s first win in the Coke 600 since Mark Martin in 2002.

 

ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

With the Coke 600, you’ll have a fallen service member’s name on your windshield. What does that mean to you?

“It’s huge for me. I greatly appreciate and understand the sacrifices that the men and women of the military make. My dad was in the Air Force and I grew up on an Air Force base in the panhandle of Florida. It means a lot to me personally to represent the men and women who go out and fight for our freedom. It’s easy to take for granted that we wake up in the morning and go walk out of the doors of our houses and go about our day, but there are men and women all over the world fighting for us to make it a possibility. I’m grateful for that and for the people who have made the ultimate sacrifice and have given their life to make sure we have freedom. It’s a great way for us to pay tribute to them and their families by having their names on the racecar.”

Based on your results so far this season, you and your team have been very consistent. How does it feel to have consistency this year? 

“I feel like we have been consistent. We’ve been a top-15, top-10 car every weekend. We had one setback at Texas, running in the top-10 before we were involved in a crash. Besides that, I’d say we’ve been a solid contender. That’s fun, that’s not been the norm for me in my Cup Series career. So, obviously, making the jump to Stewart-Haas Racing and having incredible racecars has made it a lot of fun for me and, to have great partners who put in all of the time, energy and resources that they do and doing their part to make us go faster on the racetrack, is a lot of fun to be a part of.”

KURT BUSCH – 2018 Charlotte I Race Advance

Kurt Busch has competed in 17 Coca-Cola 600s at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. He finished an impressive sixth in the 2014 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. All that’s left is the Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco and he will have the Memorial Day weekend trifecta.

The latter iconic race might be rather difficult, but Busch may take in the Monaco circuit in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup when he retires. If it sounds strange, did anyone see Busch’s performance in the 2014 Indianapolis 500? Anything is possible.
While Busch will be watching Monaco and Indianapolis, his focus Sunday will be the longest race of 2018 season – a 600-mile, 400-lap affair that has been contested since 1960.

Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has had some success at Charlotte as he started second and led 252 of 400 laps there en route to his 22nd NASCAR Cup Series victory on May 30, 2010.

He held off a hard-charging Jamie McMurray to score his only points-paying victory at the 1.5-mile oval. He won the non-points-paying NASCAR All-Star Race the week before, becoming just the seventh driver to win both events in the same year.
Along with the victory, Busch has seven points-paying top-five finishes and 12 top-10s at Charlotte.

Busch finished 18th in last weekend’s Monster Energy All-Star Race, but a Coca-Cola 600 win after finishing 18th in the All-Star Race has happened before. Casey Mears finished 18th in the 2007 All-Star Race, then came back one week later to score a win in the Coca-Cola 600.

A triumph Sunday would put Busch in elite company with drivers Richard Petty, Fred Lorenzen, Neil Bonnett, Jim Paschal, Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick as a two-time Coca-Cola 600 winner. And it would give Ford its first Coca-Cola 600 win since 2002.

 

KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

Talk about the Coca-Cola 600.

“It’s a big, marquee event. There’s The Masters, the Grand Slams in tennis – there are those big marquee events and this is one of them for us here in NASCAR. Memorial Day weekend is a time to reflect on our military and to give thanks and honor those who have served. It’s also a huge weekend of motorsports and the platform of motorsports shines because of Monaco, Indy and Charlotte. And when you have a chance to be the last guy standing at the end of that weekend with a trophy in your hands, it’s big. It’s a huge event to win.”

What do you remember about competing in the 2014 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race?

“The action, the atmosphere and the people of Indiana love their racetrack. The Kentucky Derby is a few weeks before and that’s a chance for the horse racing people to be recognized. And that’s what I saw at Indianapolis. The people of Indiana have their track on a global world stage for the day. And everyone is proud of their track. The electricity, the atmosphere, the pageantry and then after all that, to take the green flag and go into turn one three wide, I’d never done that before in my life. And it’s like you snap into race mode. We’ve got 500 miles to do. And it was an incredible day that I will never forget.”

You’ve done Charlotte and Indy. Is Monaco next?

“There is that chance, but the clock is ticking on me (laughs). I look at Formula One as something I’ll never be able to do, but there are some support series – the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup is one. It’d be great to get on track at Monaco but, if I can’t, it’d be great to get on a boat in Monaco or on top of an apartment building in Monaco to experience the race.”

Talk about the 2010 Coca-Cola 600, when you had such a dominant car.

“Well, to start, we just missed out on the pole. That’s one thing that sticks in my mind. You know how racers are – we want to win them all. That race, we were so good in the daytime that I was afraid of what was going to happen when the sun went down and the track started to change and how the race would play out. I mean, you never really have a good car at the beginning and have it stay underneath you for the nighttime. It’s just the way you’ve always seen that race play out. But that car was that good. It was what we saw with it in the All-Star Race the week before. It was fast during both of those weekends. So it’s amazing how you can stumble across little things that make all of the difference in the world. Again, I was leading the beginning of the race just pacing myself. The car was so good in the daytime and I literally thought we would end up a lap down at night because cars never stay the same as the race goes on. But it worked out and we got the win in the 600.”

CHASE BRISCOE – 2018 Charlotte I Race Advance

Event: Alsco (Round 11 of 33)
Date: May 26, 2018
Location: Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway
Layout: 1.5-mile oval
Television: 1 p.m. EDT on FS1

Chase Briscoe Notes of Interest

 

• Chase Briscoe will start his third race in the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste (SHR) Ford Performance Mustang Saturday afternoon at Charlotte (N.C) Motor Speedway.
• As a member of the Ford Performance Driver Development Program, Briscoe also will race the SHR Mustang Sept. 29 on Charlotte’s “roval,” and Oct. 20 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Briscoe has an additional 12 Xfinity Series races with Roush Fenway Racing in 2018, as well as several sportscar races.
• Briscoe will be joined in the Charlotte field by SHR teammate Cole Custer in the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang.
• The No. 98 Ford makes its sixth appearance of 2018 at Charlotte. Aric Almirola finished 35th Feb. 17 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Kevin Harvick won Feb. 24 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and finished 19th April 7 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Briscoe finished 23rd at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in his SHR debut April 13 and 16th at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway April 28.
• Briscoe has made five starts in Xfinity Series competition this season. He finished 15th at Atlanta and 11th at Texas, 22nd at Bristol, 26th at Richmond (Va.) Raceway and 16th at Talladega.
• In 2017 Truck Series competition, Briscoe earned four poles and won the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Briscoe’s 10 top-five finishes and 14 top-10s enabled him to make the Truck Series playoffs, where he finished sixth in points and scored the series’ rookie of the year and most popular driver awards.
• Briscoe won six races en route to the 2016 ARCA Series championship.
• Briscoe finished 22nd in his lone start in Truck Series competition at Talladega Oct. 14, 2017. He finished third in his lone ARCA start at Talladega April 29, 2016.
• The 23-year-old Mitchell, Indiana native is a third-generation driver. His grandfather Richard Briscoe is a legendary Sprint car team owner, and his father Kevin Briscoe raced Sprint cars for more than 20 years and won more than 150 feature events.
• Briscoe’s first time behind the wheel of a racecar came in 2001 in a Quarter Midget. In 37 starts driving 410 Sprint cars, Briscoe racked up eight top-fives and 17 top-10s, including a win in the last race of the season, where he broke Jeff Gordon’s record as being the youngest driver (13) to win a 410 Sprint car race.
• Briscoe started second and finished 11th in his lone start in the Truck Series at Charlotte on May 19, 2017.

Chase Briscoe Quotes:

 

What are your thoughts on Charlotte?

“I can’t wait to get to Charlotte. I really don’t feel like we’ve shown what we are capable of doing, yet. We were wrecked in the opening laps at Bristol, and then Talladega is just an animal all its own. Charlotte is more of a test of where we really are. It should be fun. I really like running on the 1.5-mile tracks. The No. 98 Ford is fast and the pit stops will be good.”

COLE CUSTER – 2018 Charlotte I Race Advance

Event:               Alsco 300 (Round 11 of 33)
Date:                 May 26, 2018
Location:          Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway
Layout:             1.5-mile oval

Cole Custer Notes of Interest

 

  • The Alsco 300 Marks Custer’s fourth NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
  • In three NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Charlotte, Custer has earned three top-10s and one top-five. His average Xfinity Series finish at Charlotte is 5.6.
  • Custer is competing for his fourth consecutive top-10 at Charlotte and eighth of the season.
  • He has one win, two poles, nine top-five finishes, 28 top-10s and has led 350 laps in 48 career Xfinity Series starts.
  • Custer’s best finish in the eight Xfinity Series races run this season is his fourth-place result at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
  • Custer is fifth in the Xfinity Series driver standings with 299 points, 57 behind leader Elliot Sadler.
  • Custer has earned two pole awards, seven top-10s, one top-five and has led 48 laps thus far in 2018. 
  • In 17 Xfinity Series starts and nine NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at 1.5-mile ovals, Custer has one win, six top-five finishes and 15 top-10s.
  • In 2017, Custer led the Xfinity Series with 422 points at mile-and-a-half tracks.


Cole Custer, Driver Q&A

 

You have finished fourth, sixth and seventh at Charlotte in the Xfinity Series. What is it going to take to pull off a win?

“In my opinion, Charlotte is one of the toughest mile-and-half tracks we go to, so you take a little pride in running well there. To win, I think you’ll have to be smart adjusting your car to the conditions throughout the weekend and the race. ”

 What are your thoughts on racing at Charlotte?

“Coming back to Charlotte is pretty important because you have all of the shop members around and all of their family and friends. It’s an important race for everybody and everyone wants to step up their game to win here. I wouldn’t say Charlotte is my favorite track to race at, but it’s a track where I’ve had some really good runs. There’s no reason why we can’t do that again.”

 What is a lap around Charlotte Motor Speedway like?

 “It’s a really edgy racetrack. Age-wise, it’s in the middle of a grippy track and a really worn-out track. It has a lot of tiny, high-speed bumps throughout the track that will upset the car. It’s a really challenging place to get around. Honestly, it’s one of the most difficult tracks I’ve been to. You have to hit your marks just right, but it’s a fun track.”

How have you adapted to the new composite bodies so far this year?

“The composite bodies haven’t been too big of a change for the drivers this year, so it wasn’t that hard to adapt. For the guys in the shop, they worked extremely hard switching all the cars over and figuring the bodies out, so I have to thank them.”

 

Jeff Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A

 

What are your thoughts on racing at Charlotte?

“I’ve attended every race at Charlotte for as long as I can remember. For that reason alone, it makes the track special to me. The fact that I can sleep in my own bed over the race weekend is just a bonus. We’ve been good here in the past, so we’re looking for another strong run to get us back on pace.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2018 Charlotte I Race Advance

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1/Busch Beer Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is going into the Coca-Cola 600 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race this weekend looking for a performance to celebrate. Luckily, the No. 4 Ford Fusion is riding with Mobil 1 and Busch Beer, one partner with a proven track record of performance and another that knows how to celebrate success, as Harvick attempts to tackle the longest, most grueling race on the Cup Series schedule.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s (SHR) technology partnership with Mobil 1 is a unique combination of experience, expertise and innovative thinking that strives to consistently deliver performance-enhancing results on the track. The partnership allows the SHR teams to head into the series’ only 600-mile event with a level of confidence that its cars will be there to compete at the end.

Mobil 1 continues to perform rigorous testing with the SHR teams in the garage with its products and support to improve on-track performance, including the reduction of frictional loss in the engines to maximize fuel mileage, increase horsepower and turn more rpm. Mobil 1 works to reduce engine temperatures to increase engine efficiency. The products allow the No. 4 racecar to reduce rolling resistance, which contributes to increased acceleration on restarts on the way to reaching top speed.

The Mobil 1 products reduce friction in the suspension components, as well, providing maximum tire grip and helping to reduce steering compliance to give precision control and improved handling for Harvick behind the wheel.

Harvick and the No. 4 team hope the benefits provided by Mobil 1 products and technology will help carry them to victory lane in the Sunday’s traditional Memorial Day-weekend event, during which their racecar will honor a fallen soldier on the windshield header as part of NASCAR’s “600 Miles of Remembrance” initiative.

The name of Lance Cpl. Patrick Ryan Adle of the United States Marine Corps will be featured on the No. 4 Mobil 1/Busch Beer Ford Fusion this weekend.

Adle, of Bel Air, Maryland, became an Engineer Equipment Operator (MOS: 1345) while in the Marine Corps.  On his 2nd Tour in Iraq, while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, Adle was assigned to the Marine Corps Reserve’s 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Force Service Support Group, Folsom, Pennsylvania, when he was killed by an improvised explosive device on June 29, 2004, while conducting combat operations near Baghdad, Iraq.

He was a 2001 graduate of Fallston (Maryland) High School, where he played varsity football and lacrosse and earned varsity letters in both sports all four years. He helped the Fallston Cougars to a lacrosse state title in 2001 playing defense, and was remembered for his aggressive play and leadership.

Adle joined the Marine Corps following his 18th birthday because he wanted to protect his family and country.

Having Adle’s name on the car brings added pressure to perform for Harvick, but pressure and performance are nothing new to the 2014 Cup Series champion.

Harvick has raced up front and has scored a Cup Series-best five wins, six stage wins and has led 820 laps this year. But he will be chasing another significant mark when the green flag drops Sunday afternoon as he attempts to become the first driver to score three consecutive points-paying wins twice in a season since Dale Earnhardt accomplished the feat in 1987.

He has two Coca-Cola 600 wins in his career and would like to celebrate his third in one of NASCAR’s top races Sunday afternoon with a cold, crisp and refreshing Busch Beer in victory lane.

 

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1/Busch Beer Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

The Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule. How do you manage that extra 100 miles on the engine?

“It definitely throws a kink into things because you wind up with fewer practice laps. This comes from the engine department, because this year you have to run your engines twice and you have to take care of them as much as you can. There’s also been a much bigger interest in where you shift and the temperatures during practice. So from that standpoint, that’s where you see the extra 100 miles in the race that makes a difference. It’s always an interesting weekend to be able to practice enough to still run the same tolerances with engines being pushed for 600 miles instead of 500, and you get there by taking that time out of practice.”

 

Is the Coca-Cola 600 more physically or mentally challenging?

“It just depends on how hot it is, honestly. If it’s a good weekend and the weather is nice, then it’s more mentally challenging than physically challenging. Either way, it’s still challenging both mentally and physically in some way, shape or form. The hardest part mentally is just getting yourself to overcome those last hundred miles because you are used to the 400- or 500-mile races.”

 

You have an added advantage with Mobil 1 as a sponsor. It’s more than a sponsor, with its technology directly benefiting how you perform on the racetrack. How advantageous has this relationship with Mobil 1 been since you joined SHR in 2014?

“It was really mind-blowing when I first came to Stewart-Haas Racing. Every time we went to qualify, we really didn’t do anything different from the driver’s seat, but we’d always pick up a tenth-and-a-half or two-tenths of a second, and it literally came down to the oils in the engine, the oil in the transmission, the oil in the rear gear and the things they did from a lubricant standpoint – those were the biggest changes we made to the car before we would go and qualify. So, when you see that level of technology and commitment to the things that go in your car, every piece of it adds up to a pretty big chunk of speed. It’s pretty remarkable.”

 

You’ve had quite a start to the season with five wins in 12 races. What has led to this kind of performance?

“I would just point at the experience of the race team because of the fact this is our fifth year together. We’ve been through a lot of very high-pressure situations, low-pressure situations, good moments, bad moments. And everybody just gets along so well on our race team and, when you look at that as a group, it’s something that’s pretty special. I think the second thing is the fact that Ford has brought a lot to the table for our race team. It’s allowed us to expand our engineering staff over the first winter and really just brought resources to our team. So, when you add all those pieces to the puzzle up and look at the experience of the race team and you look at the partnerships we have with Ford and Mobil 1 and all the support we have from our ownership group to let us go out and explore and do the things and take the chance of switching to a different manufacturer and take the chance of bringing things into our own house and controlling more of our own parts and pieces, those things all added up.”

 

What does it mean to honor and remember a military member on your No. 4 Mobil 1/Busch Beer Ford Fusion this Memorial Day weekend?

“There isn’t any sport that honors the military any better than NASCAR. I know a lot of sports do a lot of things for our military but, when you roll into this particular weekend with the Coke 600 and you are a part of the celebration and remembrance for all the things that have happened with our military, to see the support that NASCAR and everybody in our garage gives the military, especially on this particular weekend, is something that gives you goosebumps. We are honored to carry the names on our cars.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2018 Charlotte I Race Advance

As the final notes of the national anthem faded over Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway’s public address system last May, amid the cheers of the crowd ready to watch NASCAR racing, Stewart-Haas Racing’s (SHR) Clint Bowyer paused before climbing into his racecar to run 600 miles in one of the biggest events of the year.

The driver noticed tears in the eyes of Terry Wagoner’s family standing in front of his car.

Bowyer had met the Wagoner family of Pelzer, South Carolina, earlier in the day as part of NASCAR Salutes – the industry’s collective expression of respect and gratitude for members of the U.S. Armed Forces, past and present. Bowyer would carry the 28-year-old Wagoner’s name on his windshield header during the race. Wagoner and two others died in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2007 from wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle during combat operations. Wagoner was in his second Iraq tour when he was killed. He followed in the footsteps of five uncles who also served in the military.

It had been smiles and laughs at the meet-and-greet that morning when the Wagoner family visited Bowyer at his motorhome, but the solemn prerace ceremony that included a moment of silence and national anthem brought out their tears. Amid the tension and chaos of prerace activity, Bowyer walked over to the family to give each a hug and whispered some words into their ears.

Nobody outside the family knows what was said but, if there is a family that identifies with the sacrifice a soldier and his family make for their country, then it’s the Bowyer family of Emporia, Kansas.

Clint’s paternal grandfather Dale E. Bowyer was a 1st Lieutenant in the United States Army. He won the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism while fighting the armed enemy in Germany during World War II.

The Distinguished Service Cross is the second-highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army. It is awarded for extraordinary heroism.

While leading his platoon under heavy fire in an attack near Sinz, Germany, on Jan. 25, 1945, Lt. Bowyer was severely wounded by an enemy mine. He refused evacuation even though both feet were shattered. He shouted instructions and encouragement where he lay. Inspired by his bravery, the men re-formed, moved clear of the mine field and continued the advance. Only then did Lt. Bowyer allow himself to be evacuated, crawling clear of the mine field to avoid injury to people.

“His devotion to duty and to his men, and his courage and fearless determination, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service,” read the commendation he received.

Lt. Bowyer eventually lost a leg due to his injuries. After his career in the Army, he lived in Iola, Kansas, and worked in the dairy business. He passed away in June 1974. Bowyer never met his grandfather.

This Sunday in the Coca-Cola 600, his grandson Clint Bowyer will carry the name of New Hampshire National Guardsman Spc. Alan J. Burgess of Landaff, New Hampshire, who died in Iraq after a car bomb went off near his patrol in 2004. The 24-year-old father of one was on patrol as a vehicle gunner in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul when he was struck by shrapnel. Burgess was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Forward, headquartered in Berlin, New Hampshire.

Whether he wins or finishes last Sunday night in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600, Bowyer won’t forget the sacrifices his grandfather and family made to keep America free or the ultimate sacrifices of the Wagoner and Burgess families and thousands of others across the country and throughout history.

That’s the meaning of Memorial Day.

 

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation VF-1 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What are your thoughts on the service of your grandfather and others in the military?

“I never got to meet him but I’ve seen a lot of letters from the President, medals and all these awards that he got. I have the highest respect for him and every soldier who has served this country. I love getting to meet them when they come to the track and I like getting to meet their families and just tell them thank you. We owe so much to everyone who’s served and we will always remember the ones who have given their lives. I love that we’ll honor them this weekend at Charlotte.” 

Do you notice the extra 100 miles in the Coca-Cola 600?

“It just depends on how your ole’ hot rod is, how your night’s going. The Coca-Cola 600 can be one of those deals where you feel like you could’ve gone another three or four hours, or it’s one of those where it’s like, ‘My God, is this thing ever going to end?’ You hope it’s the way I was describing before. You hope it’s, ‘This is easy,’ and wish it’d lasted a couple more hours.”

Is there a difference between your mental approach now that you have a victory in 2018?

“The confidence level is through the roof right now for our race team and myself. We’re capable of doing it. We’ve proven that, we’ve got that behind us. It’s no longer, ‘Can they do it,’ it’s, ‘When will they do it again,’ and I feel that way when you get in that racecar. It’s not, ‘Can we win again,’ it’s, ‘When are we gonna do it and how are we gonna do it?’” 

Are companies more interested in the No. 14 with the success you have enjoyed in 2018?

“There are a lot of good things going on with our sport and I feel like obviously we’re running good and, I can tell you this, I’m gone a hell of a lot more than I was a year ago and even two years ago, three years ago. Things are picking up in a big way and that’s because of partners and sponsors starting to really pick up around the program.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2018 All-Star Race Report

Event:               Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race(non-points event)
Series:               Monster EnergyNASCAR Cup Series
Location:          Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval)
Format:            80 laps, broken into four stages (30 laps/20 laps/20 laps/10 laps)
Start/Finish:      4th/ 1st(Running, completed 93 of 93 laps)

Race Winner:    Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing(Ford)
Stage 1 Winner:Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing(Ford)
Stage 2 Winner:Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing(Toyota)
Stage 3 Winner:Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing(Ford) 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-30): 

  • Kevin Harvick started fourth and finished first.
  • Harvick took the lead for the first time on lap seven.
  • The Jimmy John’s driver held the lead for the remainder of the stage.
  • Following the end of the stage, Harvick came to pit road for four tires and fuel. An issue during the pit stop dropped the team to fifth on the ensuing restart.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 31-50): 

  • Started fifth and finished 10th.
  • The 2014 Cup Series champion raced his way back up to third in the beginning of the stage.
  • However, Harvick fell back after getting hung out on the bottom and finished the stage in 10th.
  • Harvick came to pit road for four tires, air pressure, wedge and fuel at the end of the stage. 

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 51-70): 

  • Started eighth and finished first.
  • Harvick raced up to fourth at the start of the stage, but he got stuck in the middle with no help and eventually fell back to ninth.
  • The Jimmy John’s driver found himself seventh when the caution flew on lap 55. He came to pit road on lap 57 and restarted 15th.
  • After running just inside the top-10, Harvick stayed out on the lap-70 caution, which advanced him to fifth.
  • Having pitted early in the stage, Harvick had fresher tires than everyone in front of him.
  • More good fortune came on lap 75 when an accident took out most of the competitors that had newer tires than the No. 4 car.
  • Harvick restarted fourth on the overtime finish for Stage 3 and moved his way up to the front, winning his second stage of the race.

Stage 4 Recap (Laps 71-80): 

  • Started first and finished first.
  • Harvick stayed out during the last stage break and restarted the final 10-lap shootout in the lead.
  • A caution on lap 91 set up another two-lap shootout to decide for a million dollars, with Daniel Suarez lining up below Harvick in second, Suarez’ teammate Denny Hamlin behind him and Joey Logano behind Harvick.
  • With a push from Logano, Harvick was able to hold off the Suarez-Hamlin duo on the inside, bring home a victory and keep his hot streak going. 

Notes:

  • Harvick’s victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race marked the 50thoverall win for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). It was the organization’s third non-points victory in the NASCAR Cup Series to go along with its 45 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series wins and two NASCAR Xfinity Series wins.
  • This was SHR’s second All-Star Race win. The first came in 2009 when Tony Stewart took the first win of any kind for SHR along with his first win in the All-Star Race.
  • This was Harvick’s second victory in 18 career All-Star races. Harvick won the All-Star Race in 2007.
  • Harvick’s margin of victory over second-place Suarez was .325 of a second.
  • The All-Star Race featured 12 lead changes among seven different drivers. Twenty-one drivers comprised the field. 

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

Take us through the decision to start on the outside and hold on for the win.

“I thought on that last restart that my best opportunity was Logano. He is one of the best on the restarts. I knew he would work with me as good as possible, because that is just the way that most of us do it from Ford. We were able to just stay even through one and two, and I really thought once we got to the backstretch we could clear him. I didn’t want to be on the bottom. I didn’t feel my car was stable enough to be under someone when they were on my right side. I had to take my lumps through one and two and hope that the guy behind me was still with me when we got to the exit of two – and we were able to win. Just want to thank everybody from Jimmy John’s, Busch, Ford, Fields, Haas Automation, Mobil 1, Outback Steakhouse, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Morton Buildings, Textron Off-Road, Liftmaster and the fans, especially. We needed to be in control of the race to have a chance at winning. If we were third or fourth we would have been in big trouble. We needed to be on the front row with clean air, because that is the only chance our car would handle good enough. It was so fast.”

What are your overall thoughts on the aero package used for this race? 

A lot of pushing and shoving. It reminded me a lot of IROC racing back in the day. We will see what everybody thinks and go from there.” 

Next Up:

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to points-paying racing on Sunday, May 27, with the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. The longest race on the Cup Series schedule gets underway at 6 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX, PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.

KURT BUSCH – 2018 All-Star Race Report

Event:               Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race (non-points event)
Series:               Monster EnergyNASCAR Cup Series
Location:          Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval)
Format:            80 laps, broken into four stages (30 laps/20 laps/20 laps/10 laps)
Start/Finish:      15th/18th(Accident, completed 74 of 93 laps) 

Race Winner:    Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner:Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 2 Winner:Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 3 Winner:Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)

Stage 1 Recap:

  • Buschstarted 15th, but a spin on just the second lap sent him backward into the turn four wall. He finished the stage in 21st.
  • The impact caused minor rear-end damage to the No. 41 Monster Energy Ford Fusion.
  • Repairs were made on pit road during thesubsequent caution, allowing Busch to complete the stage.
  • Busch finished one lap down, but took the wave-around and earned his lap back before pitting.

Stage 2 Recap: 

  • Buschstarted 21stand finished 20th.
  • Busch radioed that his No. 41 Monster Energy Ford Fusion was “still pretty loose” as the stage drew to a close.
  • Crew chief Billy Scott called for significant changes during the four-tire pit stop at the end of the stage, one of which was a massive left-rear wedge adjustment. 

Stage 3 Recap: 

  • Buschstarted 20thand finished 18thafter getting collected in a multicar accident.
  • A caution period on lap 57 allowed Busch to pit for four tires and fuel with another series of chassis adjustments.
  • When the race returned to green on lap 59, Busch remained in 20th, but climbed to 12thbefore another caution flag waved.
  • While others used the caution to pit, Busch stayed out to gain track position. He was eighth for the restart.
  • The well-earned track position went for naught when Busch was collected in a crash three laps from the end of the stage.
  • With his No. 41 Monster Energy Ford Fusion too damaged to continue, Busch was forced to the garage. 

Notes:

  • This was Busch’s 17thcareer start in the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race. Harvick and Matt Kenseth are the only active drivers with more All-Star Race starts.
  • Busch won the All-Star Race in 2010.
  • Harvick’s victory in the All-Star Race marked the 50thoverall win for SHR. It was the organization’s third non-points victory in the NASCAR Cup Series to go along with its 45 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series wins and two NASCAR Xfinity Series wins.
  • This was SHR’s second All-Star Race win. SHR’s first All-Star Race victory came in 2009 when Tony Stewart took the first win of any kind for SHR along with his first win in the All-Star Race.
  • Twenty-one drivers comprised the field, which consisted of drivers who won a points-paying race in 2017 or 2018, fulltime drivers who have previously won the All-Star Race, fulltime drivers who have won a NASCAR Cup Series championship, and drivers who advanced from the undercard Monster Energy Open. 

Next Up: 

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 27 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The race starts at 6 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX beginning at 5:30 p.m.

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2018 All-Star Open Race Report

Event:               Monster Energy Open(non-points event)
Series:               Monster EnergyNASCAR Cup Series
Location:          Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval)
Format:            50 laps, broken into three stages (20 laps/20 laps/10 laps)
Start/Finish:      1st/ 6th(Running, completed 50 of 50 laps)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-20): 

  • Aric Almirolastarted first and finished sixth.
  • Almirola put the No. 10 Smithfield/Waffle House Ford Fusion into the lead right at the beginning of the race and paced the field for the first 11 laps.
  • Almirola noted that the front end of his car began to plow on lap 12.
  • Pitted for four tires, fuel and adjustments at the end of Stage 1.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 21-40): 

  • Started seventh and finished sixth.
  • Almirola drove back to second place before he was shuffled out of the lead draft and fell to seventh place. 

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 41-50): 

  • Started third and finished sixth.
  • Almirola ran in and around the top-five during the final 10-lap dash.
  • Almirola’s Smithfield/Waffle House Ford found momentum on the last lap, but was caught behind traffic as the stage ended. 

Next Up: 

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 27 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The race starts at 6 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX beginning at 5:30 p.m.